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Sunday, October 20, 2019

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2019-Day 20: THE NAVY VS THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1966)

An acid-secreting ambulatory plant wishes in vain that it were in THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) instead. 

Please indulge me with this one. A film to majorly impact my formative years was the steaming turdstorm of THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1966), a zero-budget effort implausibly based on a novel by sci-fi legend Murray Leinster.

The source material. 

Bad on so many levels, the movie is a crap-film-lover's smorgasbord of heinous acting, obviously in-studio sets trying to pass for the outdoors, man-eating, acid-secreting plants that look like they were crafted by a bunch of third graders with some papier-mache and a couple of garden hoses and the always welcome sight of Mamie Van Doren — aka "the poor man's Jayne Mansfield," but I will always enjoy the presence of a blonde 1950's B-movie bad girl type —  in a nurse's uniform that's about six sizes to small for her ample lungwarts.

Mamie Van Doren in her heyday: second only to Jayne Mansfield as the most delectable of the Marilyn Monroe clones.

In a nutshell — you'll be thankful for the brevity of this synopsis, as the movie is a seriously turgid stink bomb, trust me on that —the mixed Naval and scientific crew of a South Pacific weather station must deal with a bunch of recently-discovered prehistoric plants that shamble about and secrete a virulent natural corrosive while seeking flesh to ingest. The by-the-numbers 1950's/1960's clash of the scientific versus the military occurs, along with the expected era-and-genre-specific cringe-inducing sexism common to films of this ilk, and by the time that it's over you realize you'll never reclaim the 87 minutes of your life wasted by sitting through it. (Just ask my buddy Mountain Man, after I subjected him to it on the night before his annual birthday party a little over a decade ago. I think that movie broke him, as I have not been allowed to sit him through any movies of my suggestion ever since.)

The thing that stuck with me about this one is that it exposed my four-year-old eyes to their very first taste of cinematic gore in the form of a soldier getting his arm ripped off at the shoulder by what amounts to a carnivorous squash. Seen now the sequence is pretty tame, but it shocked the piss out me when I was little. Plus there are scenes of people getting splattered with acid, and we all know that's always good for vaporous histrionics and dripping, disfigured flesh.

The horrid results of "self-abuse."

And speaking of the memorable effects of what acid can do to human flesh as recalled by an under-five, for years afterward I could have sworn there was a scene in the film where Mamie Van Doren got her ample ass wedged into the maw of one of the plants and had to be borne away from it by a heroic Naval man while her ass literally smoldered, but that's the kind of thing that the febrile imagination of kid can falsely insert into memories of an early "shocking" cinematic moment. 

The film also introduced me to the "base under siege" trope in horror and sci-fi, with later, better examples including NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), ALIENS (1986), DOG SOLDIERS (2002), and damned near the entire Patrick Troughton era of classic DOCTOR WHO (1966-1969). Thus are the building blocks of one's genre interests collected, even if those blocks are sometimes calcified turds. They are still nonetheless stackable. Anyway, THE NAVY VS THE NIGHT MONSTERS is of interest only for Mamie Van Doren completists — who are likely to come away from this disappointed, as her tightly-attired, bullet-brassiered juvenile delinquency exploitation B-movie heyday was nearly a decade behind her at this point — fans of carnivorous plant monsters, and though awake late at night with no booze or drugs and absolutely nothing better to do with their time.


Poster from the theatrical release.

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